Late September is often cool and crisp, punctuated by the smell of woodsmoke as people start using their fireplaces to take the chill off rather than fire up the gas-burning boiler. Grass mowing ends as the cool air ends the growing season and the tomato crop withers on the vine.
Not this year.
It has been hot, like middle-of-summer hot here for a week now. Research vessels in to prep for peregrinations to southern climes are lingering to enjoy the fine weather. Even the hard-working scientists are off early to go fishing or ride the bikepath. I know the locals are into it because I see people sneeking off from work in their bathing suits, and heads bobbing way out in Buzzards Bay on long-distance swims. In this calm, warm weather, why not?
I got out in my boat over the weekend, trudging across to Great Harbor with my oars, launching my tiny rowboat from the beach on Penzance and rowing out to my slightly bigger boat to go explore the Elizabeth Islands. I brought a sweatshirt because you never know on the water but, wow, was that unnecessary! It was so hot I was yearning to jump in by the time I had the engine fired up.
Woods Hole Great Harbor is filled with the most wonderful and eccentric boats. I love this one, a tiny tug boat all made of well-polished wood from another era. Not too practical, but adorable.
Clearly, I am a little obsessed with this vessel as I look through my photo-files for other shots of the harbor and find only more of the “Amycita.” I don’t see her off the mooring often, but I do look forward to meeting her owners. Imagine a cruise over to Oak Bluffs (a great destination on Martha’s Vineyard) in this stylish vessel!
And this is NOT the only miniature tug in our little harbor. My friend Kimberly is lucky enough to have this wonderful boat, small as the smallest skiff but ooh, what style. She was seen leaving work early yesterday madly texting to friends about a sunset tug cruise. These are the perks of living so close to the water:)
So I guess this is what you would call Indian Summer. Since my visit to Plimouth Plantation, I may need to re-name that Native People’s Summer. Whatever you call it, it is something to be relished — summer weather long after is it expected to be gone is like a gift from the Gods (the Wampanoags called him/her “Moshop”). Something to inspire us and help us prepare for the long winter ahead.
Off to swim!
In fall, the early settlers of the real Plimouth settlement would have been busy preparing for winter, digging root vegetables into cellars, salting fish caught in the remaining long days and checking the seams on their thatched roofs before the winter storms. Today, a visit to the Plimouth Plantation (a recreated village replete with role playing settlers and native guides) is like a jaunt into another time, when a handful of brave souls clung to a stern version of Protestantism on the edge of a clear blue bay.
Wandering the paths of the faux settlement, you meet men and women who “live” there and who talk directly to you, answering questions simple and complex about their journey to the new world, their motivations and daily life. The pastor told us all about the hardships, 12 years spent in Holland gathering funds followed by an epic sail across the Atlantic where nearly half the pilgrims died. He told us how they grew corn to trade with “Indians” who came from a northern place called “Maine.” These native people, he explained, lived in a place with a short growing season and counted on trade of furs for corn to make it through the winter. The furs were valuable back in England, so the Pilgrims traded them for olive oil, salt, gunpowder and many other staples that they did not have in the new world.
We explored the little clapboard houses inside and out. I was especially taken with a lovely garden, filled with rhubarb and chard and the old fashioned split rail fencing that kept a big black cow grazing in a meadow nearby. It is hard to imagine the isolation of this little community perched on the edge of such a vast wilderness, so separate from their own culture. Many could not handle it and returned to England, we were told. Others were seditious and banished from the community. With so few people, it is no wonder petty issues had the possibility to become major problems.
The occupant of this little house was a feisty lass who told us about pub life in England and all the sacrifice she had made to come to the new world. Her authentic dirt floor, open hearth and simple wooden furniture made for a setting that Vermeer would have painted, and I was pleased how the iPhone captured the limited light from a small window:
Up at the top of the hill is a meeting hall, a church I guess, with a gorgeous view out over Plymouth Bay and the lighthouse in the distance. Built with cannon on the top, it is a fitting metaphor for the fire and brimstone church style of the rigid Pilgrims. This young woman told us she had just been married and was hoping to have children soon, if the Lord saw fit:
Around the bend, Native Peoples dressed in period garb work and play in a series of tents. The “winter house” of the Wampanoag looks like this:
Inside, a Wampanoag descendant sat on furs, weaving a colorful ribbon. The Native Peoples do not role play; rather they describe native lifestyles and culture when asked. There is a sign on the way in reminding visitors to be respectful. Some of the suggestions were so obvious as to be insulting (don’t “war whoop” or call someone “chief” or “squaw” — I mean please, who would do that?) But others are more subtle, for example, don’t ask what percentage native the people you see here are. OK, that’s fair.
We learned that Wampanoags spoke an Algonquin language that had common roots for all Native Peoples on the eastern seaboard. That they had a varied diet of meat in winter, fish in summer plus corn and many other vegetables both cultivated and gathered. That they made canoes from hollowed out tree trunks and larger vessels with pontoons that they used to catch whales off the tip of Cape Cod. Once captured, they would plug the blowhole of the whale and the whale would swell with air so they could drag it inland.
We learned that they lived in a simpler structure in summer, usually close to water they could fish but come winter they moved inland 10 miles or so to larger structures covered with bark. Around the outside of the tent were beds made of saplings lashed together and covered with many layers of fur. Whole families lived together this way, with a cook fire in the middle and a hole in the roof to let the smoke out.
Fall is the perfect time to step back in time and spend a few hours in the 17th century. Plimouth Plantation is about a forty minute drive from Woods Hole, and offers fun for the whole family.
Sunday is already a bit of a blur for me. Mix exhaustion with adrenaline and too much caffeine and you get a solid forget-me drug. I know I made it to the Inn to help with breakfast and there was a large crowd there enjoying the meal after several successful weddings (yes, we had guests with us attending THREE different Woods Hole affairs).
It was rainy, grey, still so very hot the air thick like in a movie but everything seemed normal — hot coffee flowing, baked goods fresh from the oven, halogen cutting the flat grey from outside. Then the electricity flickered and died. Wow, everyone could use a little makeup in the light of those camping lanterns.
By late morning, the wind was really howling, screaming into Woods Hole’s Great Harbor and the tide was high, lapping at the tops of the docks. The Martha’s Vineyard ferries were bobbing visibly on the piers outside our windows. Salt spray was washing over the building, covering the plants whipping in the 40-50 MPH winds.
Inside, many went back to bed, lulled to sleep by the roar of the winds and the dark light. A group from one of the weddings gathered to watch a ten-month old baby crawl across the king size bed. Little Susannah was adorable but I bet if the TV had been on with weather news, that would never have happened. Someone broke out the Jenga and played a few distracted rounds before moving back to the hot tea and cookies. Even the Sunday New York Times held little appeal — it was yesterday’s news and we were in the middle of the story of the week. There really was nothing to do but wait it out.
By mid afternoon, it seemed to be tapering a bit. It never hit the intensity of my memory of Hurricane Bob where the scream of the wind put your teeth on edge and the curvature of the glass windows threatened to bring the storm inside. It didn’t rain a lot, which is a blessing as I watched roof tile whip past me to the street half the morning. For us, several hundred miles from the eye, Irene was downgraded to a “tropical storm” and she was an entertaining but well-behaved actress, like a burlesque dancer from the roaring 1920’s (Irene) compared to a stripper on the “Sopranos.” (a stripper named Bob? I guess on the Sopranos…)
I wandered out in the car. The surf on Nobska Beach was intense, really churning in a way that we never see in Vineyard Sound (protected from the prevailing winds by Martha’s Vineyard.) There was this bright yellow foam whipping off the top of the waves and oozing over the road in strips. I heard that Surf Drive was impassable, covered with drifts of sand and seawater. When I ventured from the car I felt small and vulnerable, the sound of the wind an overwhelming roar, and I struggled to keep my balance.
On the way home, I saw a power line bucking and sparking by the Sands of Time. I later heard that when NStar tried to put our grid back online there was an explosion in a local house, burning it to the ground. Terrible. I hurried home, made a light dinner and collapsed.
Then it was just over. A gorgeous day today, sunny and cool, the taste of fall in the air. Except for the downed branches and the unusual smell of fresh green crushed leaves, you would never know there had been a storm. The ducks were out on their favorite little dock, the only difference that a summer’s worth of duck poop was miraculously gone, fresh scrubbed, as if it was made new by some magic cobblers in the night. I marveled at the small brown birds – so resilient! Where did they hide in all that wind?
Up way too early, I conquered the Inn’s generator system, managing to make warmish showers, hot coffee and freshly baked croissants with one plug and five gallons of gas. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with myself as mechanical tasks are amongst my most dreaded, and generally least successful. Charlene took the sheets into Falmouth (can you say laundromat?) and Amanda and I cleaned rooms with brooms, dustpans and rags. By three pm, we were still without power but miraculously ready to check in new guests. We even managed a new batch of cookies.
When NStar showed up on the pole right outside the front door of the Inn I knew we were close. Power was restored about 5.30 pm, my trusty generator put away for another day. Irene was relatively sweet to us. We we ready for worse, but so lucky we only got her simple side. Our hearts go out to others out there not so lucky. We know first hand how scary it can be. Now I hear there is a new tropical depression brewing out there…so we take our experience from this one and we wait for another battle. Next time, less florescent camping lanterns and more battery operated candles! I am gonna need that forgiving faux flicker to weather the next one.
The streets are empty, the restaurants deserted and the air completely still. The last of the ferries hurrying out of Woods Hole getting people to their destinations. There is an odd green hue to the afternoon light, muted with a grey low sky. After moving another set of porch furniture in, making two banana pound cakes and allaying the fears of many guests about the storm situation (which appears to be improving), I grabbed a little “me” time. I walked home past the Eel Pond where many parking meters stood empty like sentinels and I went to Stoney Beach.
It was incredibly flat calm down there, the waves so tiny they made a miniscule little whoosh as they lapped the sand. Dead high tide, moon tide which is especially high, leaving the beach a sliver and the distance to the swim buoy more challenging.
I breast-stroked out and floated on my back, toes in front of me in the water like my Dad used to do, and looked back at the houses that line the beach. Many have boarded up. There are shutters closed, or removed to keep from blowing away. But some houses seem to have made no preparations at all.
I thought about what a privilege it is to live so close to the water that I can walk to the beach for a quick after-work swim. But that this same proximity is a huge disadvantage in a storm like Irene. If the surge comes at moon-high tide, there could be 10 extra feet of water. That would turn my street to a canal, my basement to an oily swimming pool and my lawn to seagrass. Floating, I thought about how amazingly mutable the sea is, one minute calm, warm, embracing; the next roaring, foaming, angry.
I thought about my Aunt Ellen who spent her waning years living in the Big House on Wings Neck (a place lovingly described by my cousin George Colt in his book “The Big House”). She loved to bathe in the sea, luxuriating the in the way the salt crunched on the sheets when she fell asleep. In her youth, much of which was in the Great Depression, the Colt children were not encouraged to wash the salt off after swimming, so for her that feeling became reminiscent of long summer days, childhood games and fresh seafood at supper.
I learned at her memorial service last month that when she became too ill to walk down to the ocean to take her daily swim, the nurses brought up buckets of seawater to gently wash her with cloths. “If you can’t come down to the ocean, we will bring the ocean to you,” one of them told her.
I think I will resist showering tonight, for that swim was so sublime I think it may cradle me in a well deserved sleep where I will dream of my father and his sisters, frolicking in the waters of Buzzards Bay so many years ago. And pray that when the sea welcomes Irene later tonight, that perhaps the memory of an woman bathing in her dying days might mitigate the damage.
We are preparing for Hurricane Irene. Will she pass with a whimper like last year’s Earl, or rumble through roaring like Bob or Carol, or the dreaded Hurricane of 1938 that decimated this coast so many years ago that only octogenarians remember.
Doesn’t much matter because no one can actually see into the future (even those hurricane trackers) to tell us where the eye of the storm will pass. And so we must go through the same rituals every season, all the stuff up from the basement in case it floods, sandbags at the doors, boats out of the water, flashlights, gasoline, duct tape, spare water, tubs filled, canned goods at the ready.
I went to Eastman’s Hardware and stocked up. What a place! A real, old-fashioned hardware store with knowledgeable staff and plenty of the supplies you need. I filled the gas can and tested the generator. Jeremy moved all the porch furniture into the basement and tied down what was too heavy to move. We put batteries in all the flashlights and took down the flag.
And so we are ready. And then we wait. I wandered out onto the street to compare notes with other business owners — have I thought of everything? Is there more I can do? I thought of the early settlers, and the Native Americans who survived on this narrow peninsula for generations without doppler radar and the constant barrage of media warning to prepare prepare prepare. Perhaps some of them came to be able to feel the low pressure systems in their bones, or noticed how the birds get very quiet.
But on a sunny hot day like today, it’s really hard to imagine that a huge storm is coming. And easy to think that people were caught unprepared before modern tracking and the relentless clack clack of the TV’s StormWatch!. I guess that makes us lucky, but sometimes the anticipation is worse than the storm.
For real time pictures and news, follow my FaceBook feed at “Woods Hole Inn.” As long as the cell sites are operating, I will be posting up to the minute news and information. After the dust settles….
Thursdays are pick-up day at Coonamessett Farm’s CSA (community supported agriculture) where I have already paid for my “share” of farm fresh veggies, flowers and fruit. It also happens to be the day I stock up on Sippewissett Oysters (a local harvest that is a side project of Coonmessett) for the Quicks Hole restaurant, so if you want to see me in summer, you will find me over there like clockwork.
The CSA started distributing a few weeks ago and as you can imagine, summer is a little errr, can we say BUSY, for me so I have not yet had time to head out into the fields to pick my own berries as offered each week. Yesterday when I left Woods Hole it was foggy and cold — hard to believe in the middle of what the papers are calling the first heatwave of the summer. Seven miles inland on the rolling acres of the farm, the sun was shining and it was warm — not too hot, just perfect.
So I said, check-in be damned, I am picking some berries! I donned a wrist band, grabbed a bucket and headed into the blueberry patch. Surrounded by a light mesh fence, you enter through a screen door and then you are in a maze, rows and rows and rows of six to seven foot high bushes heavy with berries, many still green but the bright blue ones popping out at you like fireflies on a dusky night. I quickly walked to the back corner to find more berries and feel alone, then worked my way backwards towards the gate.
It was the most zen hour of my week. Alone, deep in these lush bushes, looking for berries, my thoughts erased to nothing more than reach, pick, cradle, dump. The satisfying plunk of the plump berry in the bottom of the bucket, the steady breeze bending the trees in waves, while I reached higher for the one at the very top, the wind taunting me by pushing the largest cluster away. A meditation on nothing more than a simple task. My purse hanging from my arm like a vestige of some long forgotten suburban life, my feet shuffling among the fallen leaves and compost, I felt like a different person, maybe a farm girl from another century or a field worker like the ones you see in a blur while driving on the California freeways.
My bucket full and my head miraculously emptied of the everyday worries, I wandered out and gathered the other veggies — a bag of fresh kale, five spring onions still clumped with soil, parsley, summer squash, fresh flowers and more. Still in a blueberry haze, I drove home with the windows down enjoying the way my hair blows into a huge fuzz ball with the humidity.
I paused on the lawn to snap this picture. Another indulgence! Get back to work, the little voice on my shoulder was shouting — but I can not shake off the clear headed feeling of the blueberry patch. I linger. I snap a few more of the berries on the kitchen counter and the flowers in that little blue vase I found at the Rose Bowl on another zen day many years ago. Blueberry Zen.
Then back to work at the inn, prepping tomorrow’s banana bread pudding and welcoming guests as they check in for the weekend. Yes, our blueberry muffins are very special this weekend — I picked the berries myself!
Locavores who want to recreate my zen blueberry experience will be pleased to know that Coonmessett is open to visitors as well, so drive on over to pick your own bucket before heading back to reality.
This dispatch by Casey Manning, a wonderful writer who is here with us for the summer:
“There’s something internal that breeds in those who grow up in landlocked states — something that fascinates them about water. For those who age watching blurred cornfields out of passenger windows, it’s hard to fathom the expanse of endless blue that must exist along the far-reaching coasts. For those who can’t claim a single acquaintance with a boating license, the term “lost at sea,” etched here in so many memorial park benches and aging gravestones, is both haunting and intangible.
And so when I arrived in Woods Hole mere weeks ago, Ohio born and raised, I was equally fascinated and slightly unsettled by the ever-presence of water at every turn. A cool evening spent on the bike path lent countless bodies of ponds, bogs, and marshes new meaning to what I had always clumped together easily as “lakes.”
And when, on a jog along that same path, tempting dark-clouded faith to get in a tempo run for my Falmouth Road Race training, it started to rain, something pulled me off the paved path and toward a beach. I sat mesmerized in the downpour for what felt like hours by the monstrous churning of the ocean and the dissolving of sea and sky. Like many things of terrible beauty, what sparkles on the surface merely hints at what immeasurable force and incomprehensible fervor lies beneath.
I’ve spent countless summers sunning myself on pool decks, relishing the first hint of chlorine smell on my skin and knowing won’t fade until September, splashing around in hopes that my pre-teen crush will notice, and flying past the ever-present “NO RUNNING SIGNS” that I never failed to disobey. And by the age I could stand on my tippy toes in the deep end, I thought I had conquered water in its most magical, otherworldly-blue form.
But an infinite ocean, like the myth concerning Eskimos and their words for snow, lends its reveler countless new definitions of the shade we call blue. My first summer defined on a scale, variably hued.
When I talk to friends back home (who are just as amazed as I that I’ve found myself on Cape Cod for the summer), the first thing they never fail to ask is if I’ve been to the beach.
“Of course!” I respond, giddily detailing minutes walks, breezy bike rides, and quick ferries to beach after beach after beach.
But I know what they envision — white sand and sparkling water under a bountifully blazing sun — and it no longer matches my own mind’s painted scene. For now my Midwestern sensibilities can appreciate not only the postcard-perfect calm of an ocean moment frozen in time, but the live, vicious churning that can surround; teasing to pull me in and never let go so that I too could dare to become a shade of blue.”
–Casey Manning, Cape Cod Summer 2011
The produce, finally fresh. The sun, steadily shining. The weight of school children’s daily burden, graciously lifted. June is a month understandably adored. And June, throughout centuries of folklore and more modern tradition, is the month for weddings.
In Roman myth, the month of June was thought to be lucky for marriage because its namesake, the goddess Juno, represented women and love. And this past June weekend, the Woods Hole Inn played host to a wedding party, with the bride Meg effusing goddess qualities all her own, rain or shine.
Despite an uncharacteristically gray June morning, the bridesmaids started the day early (post-gourmet continental breakfast, of course) with smiles and a garment steamer.
And with the sight of tulle and the smell of hairspray wafting through the halls of our historic inn, the anticipation grew throughout the morning.
And then the wedding dress was revealed.
And though the gray skies opened into gray showers, the bridal party remained cheerful and calm.
And preparations for the lovely event that was to be held rain or shine at Woods Hole’s own Nobska Lighthouse continued.
Along with a few last-minute dress alterations.
Once the bride was dressed, the troops were rallied.
And after last minute touch ups…
it was bridal party portrait time.
For as soon as the rain let up, it was time to say goodbye.
Or perhaps hello, as these sort of life events seem to lend themselves.
We wish Meg & Mike the best of luck on their new adventure. We are confident that the blessings of a joyful smile on a cloudy day will fill their lives together with genuine happiness.
The sky was glowering when I biked out of Woods Hole on the Shining Sea bike path yesterday, with a blustery wind blowing from the southeast which is where the summer storms blow in from. The breeze was warm enough, it was cool and pleasant, a perfect day to explore.
The bike path, which is one of the biggest draws to Falmouth, is on the reclaimed path of the old railroad tracks (abandoned in the 1960s). This means it is a nice straight line, far from any road except a handful you cross along the way. How rarely do we get to bike on a paved road nowhere near a car? A special experience, it makes me wish that cities and towns across the country would have to foresight to install a unique right of way such as this one.
The bike path was extended last year, and now runs 11 miles from Woods Hole to North Falmouth. I dream that someday it will extend (as the abandoned train tracks still do) all the way to the Cape Cod Canal and hook up with the path that swoops out toward Provincetown making all of the Cape safely bike-able and connecting us in a green way to our neighbors in Chatham, Wellfleet, Truro and beyond.
I am working towards riding the whole thing round trip, and yesterday I made it past the five mile marker. The first mile out of Woods Hole is in the shady beech forest, passing over several old wooden bridges the bike wheels going thump thump thump on the weathered boards. There are glimpses through the trees of the houses on Fay Road that line a private beach looking out at Vineyard Sound. Tiny intriguing foot paths veer off to the right and left with small painted “private please” signs.
About a mile up, you get your first big reveal of the ocean. Surf Drive, one of the most beautiful of Falmouth’s many beaches, stretches two miles before you, surf crashing today over the breakwaters, the shore dotted with little cabins on stilts. I think of the people who used to come here on the train, most headed to the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, and imagine that this view was an exciting moment as they emerged from the woods and saw Vineyard Sound for the first time, caught a whiff of that distinctive smell of eel grass drying in the sun, and felt the cool breeze off the water. I can only imagine this was the first real taste of summer vacation.
Yesterday, the southeasterly wind buffeted my bike as soon as I emerged from the woods. I passed the Trunk River which is a tidal pond that empties into the ocean. Herring run here in season, and fisherman gather at the breakwaters to catch fish drawn to the current. There is another small wooden bridge, and a sign about the life of the tidal river that is worth a quick stop.
From here, the path veers inland, back into the lee, past several conservation sites with salt-water pond views and walks, toward the main streets of Falmouth. The vista to the left across the Oyster Pond is particularly delightful, even on a gray day, with the Spohr Gardens in the distance. Once in Falmouth, you can take a right off the path at the bus station for a pick-me-up at the locally-run Coffee Obsession on Palmer Ave., or continue onto Main Street for ice cream, homemade fudge, cupcakes and lots of fun local shopping.
I did not stop, as the weather was still threatening. Past the village, from the path you can see the back side of the bus station, the back corners of the Steamship Authority parking lot, and the cooking vents of Seafood Sam’s then you are back in the woods again, the canopy high above you and the light filtered green with the glow of the spring leaves.
I made it up to the Sippewisset Marsh, about mile five, before the rain started coming down in those large droplets that you can almost dodge between but indicate that much more is likely on the way. I paused to look out over the marsh and read a sigh posted there about the Wampanoag. It says, among other things, that “Sippewisset” means “place of the brook” and that this was a sacred site for Native Americans on their annual peregrination towards the fishing holes and summer hunting of what we now call Woods Hole and the islands.
History buffs will enjoy learning that this marsh is also the site of Rachel Carson’s 1950’s era scientific exploration into the devastating effects of DDT (a pesticide) on the environment which inspired her to write “Silent Spring” the book that launched the environmental movement in the US, ultimately inspiring the US Congress to ban the use of DDT. Were she alive today, she would reflect again on the sacred beauty of this marsh, again filled with osprey and many other shore birds that have returned due to her clarion call. Even with the threatening rain, I pause for several minutes to appreciate this achievement, a nice confluence of the scientific with the spiritual. Louis Agassiz would approve.
The ride home, I pick up the pace as the rain starts to come in earnest. It is all subtlety downhill now, I realize as soon as I turn around, and the trip back is faster and easier. I fall into a trance as the rain drips softly from my hat and the view in reverse rushes past.
Rolling back into Woods Hole, almost two hours and ten miles later, I am ready for a snack and a place to put my wet feet up. Lobster taco time! Thank god for Quicks Hole, the restaurant on Luscombe Avenue across from the Landfall, the perfect spot for a dripping wet biker to unwind a bit before heading back to that comfortable suite at the Woods Hole Inn.
We have hosted countless bridal brunches, catered many bridesmaids luncheons and launched quite a number of rehearsal dinners. Offering the accommodations for the bridal party, or the extended family of the groom? Done that many times over. But with only room for about 70 guests in the waterview terrace, I will be the first to admit that the Woods Hole Inn was a wedding ceremony virgin.
All that changed this Friday with the glorious nuptials of Kim and Jason.
It rained all week, cloudy, foggy, overcast and no glimmer of sunshine recorded in the three day advance forecast. Oh dear, I thought, we should have insisted on a tent! But I knew that tenting the garden would ruin that feeling of endless sky, and mute the Cape light to something diffused and ordinary. Kim and Jason agreed, and they were willing to risk cramming everyone inside in case of a downpour. Amazingly, and despite all prognostications, the day emerged with only a light fog shimmering on the harbor, melting off the Passage with an early morning sun. By afternoon, it was the first hot day of the spring. It was also the weekend of the much publicized “Rapture.” When we made it to late afternoon Friday with no rain, I thought, there is a God.
Kim and Jason were staying in room 5, with friends and family surrounding them in every room of the house. Sara baked all day to prepare special wedding breakfasts and the smells of fresh baked pound cake mingled with the bacon and roasted asparagus for the over-stuffed quiches. We scrubbed and strategized, weeded the garden and swept the back corners of all the porches, even dusted off our radio kits to make sure communication would be seamless during the ceremony. Extra valets were on hand, and a team of extra servers from Quicks Hole to assure that every detail went off without a hitch.
At the appointed hour, all the guests hushed and gathered in front of the harbor, with Jason waiting for her in his signature green pants, Kim peeked out of room 6, giggled with the flower girls and kissed her father. Gripping his arm, they walked down the driveway to emerge in the late afternoon Cape light. She seemed to glide across the sandy terrace, up onto a modest platform where they embraced tenderly, a ferry boat headed to the Vineyard pulling out of the slip as if on cue as the ceremony commenced. I was hiding in the back with my camera and captured their altar embrace, his eyes closed, lips pressed to her forehead.
Guests squeezed each others hands as vows were exchanged, a harpist perched in the shade on the deck punctuating the moment with her soft plucking. The best man expressed his love for the couple along with prayers for a wonderful long life together. And then it was done!
Champagne and freshly shucked local oysters, fresh lobster crostini with sweet pea garnish and snow peas piped with herbed cream cheese appeared on platters. Pitchers of cool Cape Cod beer, the IPA and the Blonde. Glasses of Chardonnay to toast the newlyweds, extra bottled water for the little ones.
All in all, a wonderful afternoon for the Woods Hole Inn — wedding virgins no more! A special thanks to Kim and Jason for sharing their big day with us. May the blessings of a sunny day on Cape Cod be in their hearts forever.
I will be the first to admit…a few months ago I did not really “get” Twitter. What was that crazy feed of posts and who were all these people posting? What was with the “#’s” all over the place and why were people so comfortable with the outrageous statement? It all seemed totally crazy to me.
Then, I got hooked. Hooked on the chance to cross all social and geopolitical boundaries to find people with like interests — like the thousands who adore “#CapeCod” many of whom might visit just once, or come only once a year. Hooked on the connections I made with real Cape Codders, twitter moms, foodies, locavores and news junkies who were living their lives in quiet obscurity just like me.
Last month, I decided to cross an invisible boundary and organize a tweetup. A tweetup is an opportunity for people on Twitter to meet each other face-to-face, to turn anonymous social media relationships into real friendships. Since Twitter is populated with early adopters, many of whom (like me!) live for social connections with others, the opportunity to deepen that relationship by putting a face to the funny series of 140 character tweets that you have come to admire is enticing. Add free lobster crostini at Quicks Hole on the first warm Friday in spring, intriguing. Silver Still (fabulous local folk duo) playing on the water-view deck with no cover? Sold!
I will admit that I fretted — will anyone come? I tweeted and tweeted like a veritable red breasted robin in springtime in hopes of getting the word out. I re-tweeted the clever posts of my new found #capecod friends. I created a hashtag to mark my tweets, #wohotweetup, and entered a dialogue with several other twitterers who were committed to coming to the event. I got name tags at Staples, checked on the lobster crostini, double checked the free wifi in the restaurant and then I waited for the party to start.
What a pleasant surprise awaited me. Tweeps from Hyannis mingling with Twerps from Martha’s Vineyard as the sun set over Woods Hole harbor and the Cape Cod draft beer flowed from the tap in pitchers… Incredible. See, despite all the people who pass through here, Woods Hole is not thought of by Cape Codders as a destination. I mean, for people to drive from Centerville or take the ferry back from Martha’s Vineyard for a pitcher of beer and a great sunset…well it is unusual because each of those places has its own incredible decks from which you can enjoy the very same sunset.
There were some highlights. I met Paula @CapeProducer who organizes the annual “Geek Girl Camp” and recently did a great job re-launching the Falmouth Bed and Breakfast Association website. I met Todd and Beth Marcus (@CapeCodBeer), Alecia Lebeda (@AleciaLebeda) the mind behind the magic of FCTV, Jason Peringer, the sassiest massage therapist on Martha’s Vineyard (@MVmassage) and Mike Nunez (@mike_nunez) a cool guy who commutes onto MV.
Tweetup conversation can get a little technical and ahh, OK… geeky. Mike and Alicia had a long conversation about bar code scanners and then mixed it up a little as they compete against each other as the “Mayor” of the Bourne Bridge on FourSquare. These are advanced topics. If you don’t know what I am talking about, don’t worry, you will soon enough. I am just glad I got to be there to witness all the fun. Thanks to the crew at Quicks Hole for making it happen and giving us such a great spot to hang out. Comments below encouraged — if you give me your twitter name you will get a personal invitation from me for the next one… And if you are coming to the Woods Hole Inn on a Friday afternoon, look forward to more hangouts at Quicks Hole all summer long.
What is it about actors that captures your imagination and makes you want to know more about them? You look at Sam Waterston’s familiar face and you think — is he like that guy he played on “Law and Order”? Is he funny? Is he smart? Does he really know how to write a great closing argument?
Well, if you had been in Woods Hole last weekend, you would have discovered the answer to these questions and much more. In collaboration with the Woods Hole Film Festival and the Woods Hole Inn, actors gathered here for a weekend of learning about the craft and the trade of acting professionally. Caroline Pickman, of CP Casting gave a two hour presentation on the expectations of the audition process, including getting the actors up on their feet to try out some of her audition material (known as “sides” in the business) from a Showtime television series. And Beth Colt presented a session on working with agents and managers, what to expect and how to engage the professionals who are the gatekeepers to a good career in acting.
But by far the highlight was our time with Sam Waterston. In the interest of full disclosure, let me explain that Sam and I worked together about a decade ago. Our company was called Stardance Productions and we developed many projects and made one wonderful movie together (called “A House Divided” starring Sam, Jennifer Beals, Tim Daly and Lisa Gay Hamilton for Showtime). So I know Sam well, and am reasonably well-equipped to ask him interesting questions.
We started with how his career got started (Yale undergrad, summer stock and then cast in the play “Oh Dad, Poor Dad…”). I asked him if he ever had a day job and he told a delightful story about working at Macy’s back when they sold bundles of theatre tickets. Like all of Sam’s stories, this was a self-depricating tale that ends with his firing for insubordination to a customer. It was hilarious. He told us about booking “The Killing Fields” (for which he was later nominated for an Academy Award) and his transition to television in the NBC series “I’ll Fly Away.” He shared tidbits about Roland Joffe, and many of the other notables he has worked with (Woody Allen, Jeff Bridges and more).
Sam’s general advice for the young actors in the room was not to pursue acting unless you have to, as he put it, “Only if there is nothing else you can do.” The demands of the profession are so bruising he told them, it leaves it’s mark on you. But he also advised, “You have to play in traffic if you want to get hit.”
Woods Hole is more than established as an international epicenter for the life sciences and oceanography, so it is a pleasure to see the reputation of this little village extend itself into the national arts scene.
We are playing in traffic here, and we intend to keep playing until we get hit:)
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At the Woods Hole Inn, we often spend a lot of time on the “table” part of farm-to-table but today I got to head out into the field and see one of the farms that we source food from in the summer.
Coonamessett Farm was founded over 30 years ago by Ron Smolovitz, who along with his wife had a passion to save a piece of open land slated for development. On their 2o plus acres, Ron farms everything from lettuce to turkey. His rolling meadows with their vineyards and neat rows of lettuce, tomato, zucchini and summer squash are quite the summer destination for everything from weddings to the passionate members of his CSA.
Spring is the time to visit if you want to see where all that bounty comes from, so I headed over there yesterday in the pouring rain with a list of the produce we consume weekly to supply our breakfast kitchen and Quicks Hole — for example, 50 lbs of fresh tomatoes a week to make our signature pico de gallo fresh daily! Try over 20 dozen eggs a week for the Woods Hole Inn’s fresh baked breakfasts? Yeah, it all adds up.
It was pouring anew when Ron and I zipped into his rain covered golf cart and sped across the meadow to the growing cluster of greenhouses. Ron put in a windmill a few years back and he explained that running the farm vehicles on electricity rather than gas helps keep down the price of vegetables.
We met with Stan Ingram, field boss at Coonamessett, who was literally ankle deep in mud transplanting rows of baby plants to larger containers (those are his amazing hands in the photo above). The long low plastic roof of the greenhouse cast the most gorgeous diffused light and the drum of rain on the roof was soporific. A lovely tiger cat leapt to greet me with a deep purr. What a peaceful place, I thought. “Earlier today when it was really coming down, we could not have held a conversation in here,” Stan remarked with a wry smile.
We talked about when they expect certain crops to come in, why they can’t grow tomatoes earlier (heating the greenhouses to 55 degrees costs too much money) and the logistics of getting relatively small batches of produce down to Woods Hole two or three times per week. Their crispy arugula is essential for our “Wicked Fresh” salad — a best seller at Quicks Hole — but at the end of the day, it’s all about logistics. Stan offered to plant more basil and cilantro to meet our weekly demand. He also cautioned me against holding him to any dates. I guess the plants mature when they feel like it, not just for our Quicks Hole opening day (which is May 6th this year, by the way).
Another exciting development is the local cultivation of oysters which Ron is going to distribute. I signed Quicks Hole up for weekly delivery of the new “Sippewissett” which is out in Buzzards Bay fattening up right now from the cold winter. Ron says the first of them will be ready by mid May. Yum.
I left with a list of wholesale prices, an order form… and a greater sense of purpose. It’s not easier to source this way, actually it’s much, much harder. But the sense of satisfaction in knowing my little business can be a part of keeping this meadow open for Ron and his golf cart? Yeah, that feels good.
Hopefully it tastes good too. Come check it out this summer at Quicks Hole, 6 Luscombe Ave in Woods Hole. More info and our menu at www.quicksholewickedfresh.com.
Fifteen writers gathered in Woods Hole last weekend (Feb 4-6, 2011) for a symposium on writing for television lead by P.K. Simonds (“Ghost Whisperer” and “Party of Five”) and Laurie McCarthy (“CSI,” “Ghost Whisperer” and “Windfall.”) The group gathered Friday night at the Woods Hole Inn for wine and cheese, introductions and ice breaking as the sun set over Woods Hole’s Great Harbor.
The next morning, the writers gathered in the Quicks Hole restaurant while Laurie and P.K. presented their take on the current TV business, everything from the recent writers strike, to the pressures of show-running, to how to handle network notes. The information-packed morning and afternoon sessions were broken up by a break for lunch. In the evening, most of the crew headed to the Captain Kidd for “Dinner and a Movie” led by Judy Laster of the Woods Hole Film Festival.
The series, a joint partnership of the Woods Hole Film Festival and the Woods Hole Inn, continued on Sunday with a final session focusing on how to break into the business. With plenty of time for Q&A from the experienced writers, most of the participants spoke of feeling jazzed about the process, and said they were energized to go home and keep writing. See their actual comments here.
Enjoy the photo essay of a weekend of good conversations, insightful questions and continuing learning about the nexus of art and commerce in the loveliest little village on Cape Cod:
So I keep hearing about this Chilifest thing, like “Ooh, you are living here now? You HAVE to go to Chilifest…” and I am like, what is Chilifest? Well, as I learned last weekend, the Martha’s Vineyard Chilifest is an INSTITUTION. And it’s a whole lot of fun, so let me take you on my little initiation journey.
It all started days before actually, when we began testing chili recipes and trying on costumes. We settled on “Fire in the Hole” – a spicy braised short rib chili with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Steph really knocked herself out on this one and after a few sample batches I agreed, this is the one! We cooked and prepped all Thursday and Friday — smoking fresh peppers and chilis in our outdoor grill, shaving Mexican chocolate, braising an enormous pile of short ribs.
I braved snow and ice to drive to the Costume Company in Arlington (thank you Jeannie!) to rent a huge pile of Revolutionary War costumes — Fire in the Hole, like Woods Hole, get it? I lived at Staples printing banners, menus, handouts. I hired an actress to help hand them out. Yes, I am really committed to making this a big event for Quicks Hole, our groovy casual farm-to-table taco stand on the ground floor of the Woods Hole Inn.
Finally, the actual day dawned and I was up early walking from my house in the village to the Inn. The light in the early morning in Woods Hole was so stunning (I’m not out of my house this early usually!) that I wore my camera around my neck and snapped a few pictures:
Guests of the Woods Hole Inn were happily dining in the front room and I dashed through the office to grab costumes, menus, signs and more. Steph and Jay lugged gallons of cold chili in covered buckets across the street to the ferry. Amy and I followed shortly thereafter. The ferry was so packed with people, they asked 45 people to get off! Volunteers, they said. No one budged. The girl next to me snickered — she had just poured four shots of peppermint schnapps into her Dunkin Donuts extra large. She was NOT getting off and neither were we.
Once we arrived at the vast tent at the Portugese American Club, we warmed up and tried a few of the other chilis — there were 40 contestants there and more than 2000 tasters. The Corona beer was flowing freely, plenty of limes, and a great Jimmy Buffet style band was playing all your island favorites.
The place was packed by noon and we handed out a ton of our Chili to consistently good feedback. The security guy standing next to our table was moonlighting from his day job as a warden in the MV jail. He kept noticing people who had come into the jail drunk and disorderly — not a bad guy, he would say, but let’s just say We Know Him Well.
Well, we lined right up and passed out thousands of little cups of our chili. The Chilifest is a fundraiser for the Red Stocking Fund, a really great island charity. WMVY the local radio station supports it, helps judge and sells all the tickets with their promotions. We met a bunch of the DJs and so many other locals, it was really cool. Here we are as we got ready to serve the crowd:
There were regular people, drunk people, people in outrageous costumes, TV personalities, official tasters from WMVY, lots of our friends and business associates from Woods Hole and so, so much more. A picture is worth 1,000 words so here is the rest of the day in photos:
In the end, all ten gallons of our chili was handed out with a smile. We won nothing more than the joy of spending the day on Martha’s Vineyard listening to good music and laughing with new friends. We were tired, oh so very tired, but it was worth it! A great day. See you all there next year — 364 days and counting.
Summer in Woods Hole. Long evenings where the light lingers past 9 p.m. Steady ocean breeze from the Southwest. Cocktails on the stern of a wooden boat in seersucker suits and floppy hats. That’s what it looked like to me from the glossy magazines.
In my 22 years of relentless travel, somehow I had never made it to this corner of the world. I’m from Texas and like to explore with not much more than a backpack, a Lonely Planet guide and my Nikon D80.
Needless to say, I jumped at an offer to come to Woods Hole for the summer and explore. They told me they needed “marketing advice” which is fine since I just earned a BA in PR and journalism. But what I really came for is the chance to do a little more urban archeology: What makes this place tick? Why do people return here year after year? What is the real Cape Cod?
In my first week I spent a majority of my time wandered the village of Woods Hole. Two words: absolutely stunning. There’s a surplus of great seafood just waiting for a dash of cocktail sauce. The people are so unbelievably friendly— I certainly have made a friend for life with one of the locals who grew up North of here in Chatham.
My favorite thing to do so far is to borrow a bike and head down to Stoney Beach for some amazing sun set shots. Nothing makes me happier than to feel the weight of my camera in my left hand as the shutter closes in and out. In a blink of a second, I’ve got it— a moment that I will remember forever.
Even though Woods Hole is technically a village, there certainly isn’t anything sleepy about it. The nightlife is great. There’s awesome live music almost every night and tons of people to meet, even out on the streets. The ferry horns sometimes get me right up at 7 a.m., but I certainly don’t mind. It just means I start my day with a swim and a bike ride. There’s just nothing like that.
I may only be here for six weeks, but I look forward to sharing my perspective with you.
There’s no better way to spend a bridal weekend than at The Woods Hole Inn! Last weekend we had brides galore preparing and honeymooning with us. It felt like a scene out of “Philadelphia Story” with boxes full of beautiful hydrangea and lilies bouquets delivered to our front desk.
Surrounded with smiling friends and family, several bottles of hairspray and two very busy makeup artists, the bride in Room 5 glowed as her mother whispered “Good luck.” We were lucky to get a few snapshots while she was getting ready. I loved the peek-a-boo through one of our vintage screens.
We also had a honeymooning couple who celebrated all evening and collapsed here for their first night as Mr. and Mrs. They enjoyed Sara’s French toast bread pudding, strawberries, blueberries and several cups of strong coffee in the morning. Good luck and come back next year!
What a fun weekend to have celebrating guests occupying almost every room. We love hosting wedding parties here at the inn and cannot wait for our next batch of brides to roll in! (…Like tomorrow!)
Just like producing a movie, at the Woods Hole Inn we are crafting great vacations, one customer at a time. Every movie begins with a great script and the Woods Hole Inn is no different — our script calls for us to make you feel pampered and welcome the minute you walk in the door.
I started my career in Hollywood, managing a group of actors and producing a few movies. I don’t want to make my career sound too glamorous because it wasn’t — thousands of people like me toil behind the scenes as part of the grist that turns the Hollywood mill. But I did learn a thing or two about star treatment that I use everyday in running the Woods Hole Inn.
I like to welcome guests the way I would welcome the star of my film onto set the first day — smiles, warmth and plenty of free bottled water. I like to clean the rooms imagining that Oprah and her entourage might walk in later tonight. I like to train staff to show off their knowledge of the local scene as if they were job interviewing for locations manager on “Jaws.” I hope breakfast comes out feeling “Like Water for Chocolate” and your pillow top reminds you of James Bond.
These are hard things to achieve and we don’t always get there. Has there been a bad day when the electrician made a mess right before check-in, the phone rang too many times to answer and a guest waited at the front desk feeling more like Rita Wilson than Tom Hanks? Yes. Now you know why Bruce Willis throws temper tantrums in his trailer when the coffee is cold — even on a movie set with a staff of hundreds, mistakes happen. So we apologize and try again. Most of our customers are much, much more amenable than Bruce (visit the inn and I’ll share a few hair curlers for you).
In any case, nothing makes us happier than getting it right and I want to quote an email we received last night, because I think we succeeded in making this couple feel like Brangelina:
“My wife and I just finished a three day stay at the Inn and I can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen. From the second we walked through the door at 28 Water Street the warmth we were greeted by, yourself and the Inn, captured our hearts forever. I cannot say enough about the cleanliness of the room and the efficiency of the staff.
We have stayed in Woods Hole before, but by far the location of the Inn is far more noteworthy than any other places we have stayed. We found it a complete luxury to drop our car off with the valet and not have to think about getting around for the rest of our stay. The area restaurants and attractions all within walking distances on the scenic main strip of Woods Hole, as well as Quicks Hole located in the same building. Talk about convenience. Not to mention the activities you planned and executed for us (ferry tickets waiting for us, wine chilled in our room, walking tour of Woods Hole, massages at Bellezza Day Spa) all completely flawless in their delivery. The things you said were going to be done, were done.
How can I write our happiness with the Inn with out mentioning Sara the Breakfast Queen. I can’t express to you enough what a pleasure it was to wake up at our leisure, walk down the hall, open the breakfast room door to find the smell of freshly brewed coffee, homemade breakfast treats, and Sara’s smiling face. To say the breakfast she prepared for us each morning was delicious would be an insult. The word just doesn’t do enough credit to her skill. We especially liked the Linguiça and Asparagus bread pudding. I can still taste its’ warm flavorful goodness.
We have spent the last few days figuring out excuses for us to return to the Inn and believe us it’s not hard, if we could come every weekend we would! Again, Thank You for all of the wonderful memories we were able to take with us in celebrating our 5th year of marriage. We hope to see you soon!” — guest from Worcester, Mass.
I feel like Sally Field’s did in her famous Oscar speech — “You like me, you really like me!” We live for this kind of feedback, and I am grateful to my tremendous staff for another star turn.
And when Brad and Angelina actually arrive? We are ready for you.
Parking in Woods Hole is challenging.
Beautiful place, no parking spaces. The love of bicycle riding in Falmouth rose out of the desire to get to Woods Hole without a car. They built a dedicated bike path for God’s sake, just to help people get to Woods Hole sans vehicle. Honestly, it’s easier to park a passenger ferry here than find a nook for your Mini Cooper.
Check into the Woods Hole Inn and a FREE parking space is yours for the duration of your stay. I know that sounds weird, because most hotels include free parking — duh. But you need to come to Woods Hole to appreciate the importance of that statement.
Free parking. In Woods Hole!
Check it out.
At the Woods Hole Inn, we maintain what we call a “doily free zone.” You know those musty old Victorians filled with the stuff you see at the flea market and wonder who buys? The little pink teacups and the figurines and the old cigar boxes filled with rubber band collections. Yeah, I hate all that clutter.
So, my husband and I bought this place last year and ran around renovating it with our funky sensibility. We grew up on the East Coast but we have been living in LA for twenty years or so now. And we have come to love mid-century modern, and Sasha Emerson, and Dwell, and the Rose Bowl and all that is hip, cool and clean about LA.
But we also miss that grounded feeling we get when we come home to Cape Cod. Wooden shingles, ancient hand crank laundry machines, ice cream made in small batches. And that zen, in-the-moment, alive feeling that seems to come up from the ground. Or floats in on the salt breeze. Or follows you around like a hungry gull on a moonlit night in October.
So here we are, proud owners of a retro meets modern inn. A place committed to being warm but not too friendly, far away from everything and in the middle of it all, urban and rural, big and small, vintage and new.
Check it out at www.woodsholeinn.com. And let us know how we are doing. Cause whats the fun if we can’t talk about it…
The Woods Hole Inn is on the water in Woods Hole, MA, across from the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. The Inn was built in 1878 and made modern in 2008.
Inn rooms feature modern decor, with a winning combination of old and new featured in magazines like Domino and Dwell.
Inn amenities include free wifi, parking, ipod docking stations, Brookstone sound machines, fresh hot popovers from Pie in the Sky as part of a Real Simple continental breakfast.
This is NOT your Granny’s B & B.
At the Woods Hole Inn, we stay GREEN by the deep BLUE sea.
How do we do it? Let me count the ways:
We recycle. We re-use. We use low VOC paints even though they cost a fortune. We never print on paper what we can file electronically. We offer discounts to customers who come by bus. We keep the heat turned down and do not use AC, ever! We turn lights and fans off when we can. We ask guests to participate with us by re-using towels and sheets when they can. We supply eco-chic toilet paper even when guests sometimes beg for evil-Charmin.
What do we hope to do? Add solar panels. Build a roof garden for herbs and natural insulation. Finish insulating the building. Find a local farm to take our compost. Build a chicken coop and serve eggs made from our own hens. Plant a garden to keep it super locavore. Live on the 100 mile diet.
Any other good ideas for me?
Memento Vivere…Remember to Live.
“Memento Vivere” was tattooed on the arm of a friend who died unexpectedly last month. Like he was trying to send a posthumous message to the rest of us… And so it was I embraced the carpe diem of it all and wandered off the beaten path this week in Woods Hole.
Ahh, the fall weather on Cape Cod is so unbelievably sweet. I walked in the full moonlight around on Harbor Hill Road and back into town at School Street. It was about 10 pm on a quiet Monday night and once I was on Harbor Hill I did not see a person or a car until a got back into town. The crickets were singing to me, moonlight filtered through the leaves and a soft warm breeze followed. Magical, zen, very in the moment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn lives in Woods Hole, with his family, and if you have read any of his books (“Full Catastrophe Living” or “Wherever You Go, There You Are”) you will recognize the splendor in a moment like that one.
So I share a few fall photos of Woods Hole. This is from the Great Harbor where the ferries pass daily to the Vineyard, looking back across the water at our little town. Windy day, but not cold yet.
The Woods Hole Passage, they call it, and it is one of the most treacherous crossings on the eastern seaboard — currents of 4-5 knots pull industrial sized buoys sideways at peak tides and the narrow channel is peppered with rocks the size of small islands. A boat a day goes on the rocks here in the summer and there is a Coast Guard station around the corner to service all the rescues needed. Through these waters pass huge yachts, old wooden racing boats called “Twelve Footers” and “Knockabouts,” Hinckley picnic boats daytripping to Quicks Hole and fishing boats of all shapes and sizes following the striped bass and bluefish.
And this is Hadley Harbor in the off season. A short boat ride from Woods Hole, through the Woods Hole Passage, any local charter fisherman can take you there. Empty and undeveloped, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Fall is in the air, and the leaves are threatening to turn. Walking the beaches near Woods Hole, stunning vistas to Martha’s Vineyard as the light settles down. Maybe the phosphorescence will glimmer mysteriously in the tides. For sure, the harvest moon of the Wampanoags will fill the sky with her iridescent glamor and whisper into the souls of hardened Cape Codders about the summers to come. Winter may be around the corner, but summer will always return.